Call the Midwife: The Start of Something Big

Previously on Call the Midwife: Trixie became an alcoholic, her former fiancé started spending a fair bit of time with Barbara, and Dr Turner started prescribing Thalidomide to his patients.

JVO talks about how amazing the female body is, while we watch Trixie burning calories at a fitness class. She’s become such a Keep Fit devotee, she’s qualified as an instructor in record time. Everyone applauds her and she tells them all that Keep Fit was really what she needed at a dark time in her life. Also, she lost two inches around the waist and went up a cup size. What sort of workout does that? Usually when you lose weight you go down a size up top, unless you’re doing some serious pectoral work, which I doubt is the case in this class.

A little boy, Perry, goes to the doctor’s surgery to pick up some milk of magnesia for his mother. Shelagh goes to see what she can find. He heads home with it and delivers it to his very pregnant mother, who starts chugging it.

Trixie and Barbara return to Nonnatus, where new uniforms have been delivered. Crane pretends to be all stern about how they’re midwives, not glamourpusses, but she’s just as excited as the girls to see these new duds.

They’re definitely more fashionable than the old uniforms, but perhaps not terribly practical, coming with a crinoline, nipped-in waist, and a large belt. But the girls love them. Barbara’s just relieved they’re not being made to wear slacks, because she insists the tops of her thighs are a strange shape. They totally aren’t; I don’t know what she’s talking about. Trixie takes that as an opening to urge her to join the Keep Fit class.

Perry, who’s quite into space exploration, it seems, is making a rocket at the kitchen table while his mother works on the laundry behind him. His sister urges her mum to sit down for a bit, but her mum insists she’s got too much to do.

The midwives show off their new uniforms to the nuns, who mostly applaud. Evangelina, of course, complains about the belts, then brings up a baby that was born with no thumbs. That may seem like small potatoes compared to what comes later on this episode, but just try to do things without involving your thumbs for a while. It’s damn hard, those things are super useful!

There’s some talk about there being no cake, because it’s been given up for Lent.

Perry’s dad comes home singing and he and his wife have some cute time before she tells him she’s in labour and it’s probably time to get to the maternity home. They stroll over there, talking sweetly about spring and how this kid was unplanned, but oh, well, what are you gonna do?

Shelagh settles the woman, Mrs M, in a bed and tells her she’s not terribly far along. She figures out the woman is putting it on a little bit so she can get a little peace and quiet for the night. She sweetly offers Mrs M a magazine and a hot drink, though she does tell the woman smoking is discouraged on the ward.

Tom goes to Nonnatus and Barbara answers the door, which gives him the opportunity to really, really awkwardly ask her for help getting Easter bonnets together for the area kids to wear in a parade. It’s easily the most tortured bit of dialogue I’ve ever heard on this show.

Trixie and Barbara cycle off to do their rounds, Barbara whimpering about the cape pulling annoyingly and having laddered her stockings already. Has Barbara not worn clothes before now? Why is she struggling so much with these new uniforms? They aren’t that different from the old ones!

A man approaches the ladies and introduces himself as a photographer. He asks for their help getting some photographs of real life in the East End, which we all know Trixie can’t resist. Of course, she agrees. Photos are taken around the neighbourhood.

Mrs M’s in real labour now, being attended by Patsy, who’s her usual fab self. While doing an exam, she notes that the baby needs a little help. Shelagh is enlisted to assist in moving Mrs M to a new position. Not long after, the baby is born, but its arms and legs haven’t developed at all, poor thing. Mrs M, not realising anything’s wrong, asks what the baby is. It’s a girl. She’s delighted. Patsy gives Shelagh a look and then hands the baby off to her so she can finish up with Mrs M. Mrs M, of course, wants to see her baby, but Shelagh and Patsy swap another look and Shelagh hustles the baby off to the nursery with a fib about her needing to be warmed up.

As she leaves the delivery room, Turner arrives and she shows him the baby. He does an exam but figures the baby must be deformed internally as well and will almost certainly die. Shelagh bursts into tears, imagining the poor baby will have a short, painful life.

Back at Nonnatus, Cynthia delivers some tea and a biscuit to Patsy. Aww. Cynthia gently mentions that there’s a Keep Fit class that afternoon Patsy promised to go to and Patsy says she’d like to bow out, but knows you just have to keep on keeping on.

At the community centre, Tom and Barbara start going through the bonnets from previous years, figuring they can salvage some. Patsy, Trixie and the photographer arrive and Trixie hands Barbara a leotard and tights, because they’ll look better in the pictures if they all match. Barbara’s not keen, but she’s got no power in the face of Hurricane Trixie.

Mrs M asks Shelagh if she can have the baby with her to show her husband when he visits. Shelagh lies that the baby had a rough time of it and needs to stay in the nursery that night.

Trixie kicks off her class. There’s one older lady there who’s so fun and sparky you just know something bad’s going to happen to her.

Turner joins Shelagh in the nursery and tells her he spoke to someone at the hospital who thinks this is a condition known as ‘seal-limbed’. If the baby survives the night, they might be able to find her a bed at the hospital, but survival is unlikely. Basically, they’re going to have to sit there and slowly watch this baby die. Turner tells his wife to go home, to their children, and he’ll take care of this.

Hour after hour passes, and the baby continues to live. Sometime in the wee hours, she decides she’s super hungry and wakes a snoozing Turner by wailing. He goes through two bottles with her, then starts reading her The Lancet, which for some reason I find incredibly adorable. Shelagh finds him in his office, snuggling the baby, and he tells her this kid wants to live.

Patsy’s done something unusual and set her hair. It’s her day off, and she tells Trixie she’s just ‘meeting a friend.’ Yay! Delia!

Mrs M tells Cynthia her husband never came to visit the evening before, which is kind of shitty of him, actually. She doesn’t seem bothered, but she is a bit disturbed when Cynthia calls her by her first name, because she twigs to the fact that’s something you do with someone you want to soothe. Cynthia reassures her the baby had a good night and she’s sure Mrs M will see her soon.

Turner tells Shelagh that an ambulance will come to collect the baby at 2. Shelagh insists the mother see her first. It’s kind of disgraceful she hasn’t seen her yet, guys. It really isn’t your place to decide when and how this should go down. If the woman were in precarious health that might be one thing, but she’s not. She’s been kept in the dark and lied to for far too long already.

Mr M finally shows up, carrying a bouquet of his wife’s favourite flowers, so I guess he’ll get some points back. Shelagh tells him to take a seat and she’ll see if Mrs M is ready to receive visitors.

Shelagh fetches some cigarettes and lights up with Mrs M, right on the ward. Ahh the 60s.

Mr M, meanwhile, starts wandering around, and I think we all know where this is going.

Shelagh tells Mrs M, as gently as she can, that the baby had some problems ‘while she was still in the womb’. She reassures the woman the baby has a beautiful face, but she didn’t grow as she should. Mrs M, confused, thinks this means her daughter’s a dwarf. For heaven’s sake, Shelagh, get it together here! I don’t quite buy that she’d be so uncertain about this. She’s a highly experienced nurse/midwife who’s worked for many years in a very poor area of London. Surely she’s had to deliver bad news to people before? But, I guess it’s the sort of thing that gets easier but never really gets easy, right?

Mr M finds the baby, and while at first he’s beaming, he then unwraps her and freaks out. Turner finds him and Mr M yells at him for ‘letting that live.’

Mrs M, meanwhile, is having some sort of breakdown, crying and begging to see her baby because she’s getting no answers from Shelagh, who’s bungled this unbelievably. Shelagh promises to bring the baby to her, but first Mr M bursts in and says there’s no way ‘that thing’ is coming to their house.

Mrs M and Shelagh go to the nursery and Mrs M is immediately like, ‘this is my baby and no way is anyone taking her anywhere, ever!’  Shelagh and Cynthia give her and the baby some time alone, retiring to the hallway to pray.

Patsy is, of course, meeting Delia, who proudly announces she’s got a spotless bill of health and her old job back. Hooray!

Turner goes to try and talk to Mr M and tell him his daughter’s going to be admitted to hospital, but Mr M won’t even come to the door.

Cynthia asks Mrs M what she’d like to name the baby and Mrs M immediately decides on Susan, a nice ordinary name that she’ll never have to spell or explain or get teased about.

Delia and Patsy are having a nice cup of tea together, but they’re interrupted by Delia’s snippy mother, who hates London and refuses to allow Delia to move back there. Patsy tries to persuade the woman that it’ll be fine, that Delia can rent a place to stay and she’s all recovered anyway, but the woman’s mind is made up. And apparently Delia has no spine at all where her mother’s concerned and just sits there.

Mrs M refuses to allow her baby to go to the hospital. Cynthia points out that they kind of need to run some tests on her but because those tests can’t give the baby arms or legs, Mrs M isn’t interested. Look, lady, I realise you’re just been through the wringer and you’re hopped up on some crazy hormones right now, but stop to consider that those tests could determine whether your daughter has further damage that needs to be attended to. Whatever, the baby’s not going.

Julienne asks the girls if she should invite Tom to Easter lunch and Trixie smiles and agrees. In the background, Barbara tries not to look too excited.

Fred shows Evangelina the photographer’s snaps, which have made it into the newspaper, and Evangelia is livid. She goes inside and tells Julienne all about it. Trixie defends the photos, but Barbara’s mortified and Julienne most certainly objects to this.

Cynthia and Mrs M discuss the practicalities of nappies and clothes for little Susan. Regular nappies aren’t working for her, because her feet keep getting caught, and all the baby clothes are at Mrs M’s house. Since her husband won’t come in and the rest of the family’s away, she can’t get to any of it. She starts crying about not being able to go home, but also not being able to consider putting Susan in some kind of home. She’s just not sure what to do here.

Trixie angrily butters some bread and declares she won’t bow down to the nuns. Bow down? Huh? Barbara’s finally starting to see the humour in the whole affair. Patsy unveils a surprise: eclairs, which gets Sister MJ’s attention. They convince her that it’s fine to eat some cake now and again, even during Lent, and she digs in.

Trixie leads another class, this time with Sister MJ joining in, beaming. Two sparky old ladies in one class? Yeah, something’s definitely going to happen to the new one.

Cynthia and Winifred get to sewing and wonder what Mrs M and Susan will do. Cynthia talks about a little brother who was born with encephalitis, and her mother refused to put him in a home. She remembers how people would stare and shake their heads, but the family loved him, and when he died, they fully realised how much he’d really mattered. She starts crying, then gets upset that the clothes they’re working on aren’t really Susan’s, they’re what they found in the charity box, and she doesn’t think that’s good enough.

She goes to see Mr M and kindly talks about what a wonderful wife and mother Mrs M is. She allows that Susan’s deformities are shocking at first glance, but if he brings her home and gets to know her she’ll become as beautiful and beloved as his other children. She tells him that Mrs M loves Susan, and she knows that Mr M loves his wife.

The daughter comes in with the baby clothes and says she wishes she could see her mother and sister. Cynthia tells Mr M that it’ll be a challenge, no matter what they do, but if the family’s pulled apart, it’ll be really hard.

Back with the Keep Fit class, they start a new exercise. As they’re going along, our nice new elderly lady gets a funny look on her face and leaves.

Trixie follows her to the bathroom and asks her (her name’s Olive) if she’s been hurt. Olive admits she had an accident and asks Trixie if she could fetch Olive’s coat so she can leave without it being obvious. Trixie’s sweet and sympathetic and totally calm about the whole thing, but asks if this has happened before. Olive thinks it’s just a thing that happens to women. Olive admits that it seems like things are a bit…looser downstairs than they should be. Trixie insists she see a doctor.

Julienne meets MJ and the girls coming back from class, all of them chowing down on chips (how did Trixie lose weight in this class? The exercises are super tame and she’s following them up with the fattiest foods out there). Julienne is not delighted to hear that all three of the midwives are now attending this class and asks Trixie to come speak with her at nine the following morning. Trixie very rudely says she’ll be busy then, so she’ll be there at half past. Excuse me? What is her deal here? She’s being so incredibly obnoxious to people who have shown her a great deal of kindness over the past few years. They object to a few photographs (and, to be honest, the picture of the girls in leotards would have been fairly shocking for the time, and viewed as inappropriate for health professionals in a small community) and suddenly she goes all bitch-on-wheels? What a spoiled brat she is sometimes.

The ladies work on sewing Easter bonnets and baby clothes. The phone rings and Patsy goes to answer it. It’s Delia, telling her that she’ll be going back to Wales after all. Patsy begs her to come to lunch, at least, before she goes.

Cynthia brings the newly refitted nappies and dresses to the maternity home and Mrs M nearly bursts into tears at the sweetness of all of it.

Trixie has convinced Olive to see the doctor. Turner informs the woman has a prolapse of the womb. Olive admits she’s been kept fairly gynaecologically ignorant and didn’t know what to do about any of it. Turner says he’s going to send her for surgical repair—all free on the national health! Yippee!

Mr M is out with his kids. They pass a flower stall and his daughter urges him to buy some daffodils—her mother’s favourite.

Julienne has Trixie in her office at last and tells her that they really need to figure something out here, because Trixie can’t take away half their nurses every week, even if it is only for an hour or so. Trixie refuses to give up her fitness classes. Sister Julienne mentions that Trixie already takes one evening a week for ‘her other class.’ Trixie informs her that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a class, and frankly, I’m surprised that Julienne, who’s usually fairly sensitive, would be so tone deaf and dismissive of it here. Yes, I know that understanding of alcoholism was…lacking in the 1960s, but still. She has to know that AA is basically what’s helping to keep Trixie functional.

Trixie defends AA and Keep Fit and says that she’s still serving the community here. After all, thanks to KF, a lady got some help she desperately needed. Julienne thinks about it, then agrees. I guess they’re just going to let the matter of the photographs drop.

Mr M has brought the kids to meet their sister. Their mother’s pretty awesome about everything, telling the siblings that their sister didn’t come out quite right, and people are going to be assholes about that, but they’ll just deal with it. Mr M is barely holding it together. Mrs M tells the kids that one has to be grateful for what you have, not what you don’t have. One of the kids asks to hold the baby, but Mr M steps in and says he wants to do it. He cradles the infant and reassures his wife they’ll manage, just as they always have. He tells her she can bring Susan home. Happy endings all around!

Easter lunch at Nonnatus. Delia and her mother are there. Cynthia asks when Delia will be taking her job up again and Delia breaks the news that she’ll be returning to Wales. Her mother says there’s nowhere for her to live where anyone will look out for her and Julienne immediately invites her to move into Nonnatus. Patsy gets a, ‘is this really happening?’ look on her face. There’s not much Delia’s mother can say against that, so looks like Delia’s joining the cast!

The Easter bonnet parade is held and Trixie notes Barbara and Tom being all cute and playful together. Mr and Mrs M bring Susan and the family coos over her while JVO tells us this was the beginning of a scandal that would rock the world for years, but though there were tragedies, there was love as well.

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